Before going on vacation tomorrow, President Obama assured Americans that there’s really nothing to worry about when it comes to NSA surveillance. But since everyone’s so concerned, he said at a press conference this afternoon, he’s taking a few bureaucratic steps to make privacy advocates feel better about Edward Snowden’s disclosures. “It’s not enough for me, as president, to have confidence in these programs,” Obama said. “The American people need to have confidence in them, as well.”
Among the proposals, the president promised to work with Congress to enact “appropriate reforms” to section 215 of the Patriot Act, which gives the government broad authority in obtaining phone records, as well as create a panel of outside experts to propose additional adjustments. The Justice Department will also release its legal analysis supporting the surveillance programs. “We can and must be more transparent,” he said.
But for the record, “No, I don’t think Mr. Snowden was a patriot,” said Obama. Although “there’s no doubt that Mr. Snowden’s leaks triggered a much more rapid, and passionate, response than if I had simply appointed this review board,” he argued, “There were other avenues available for someone whose conscience was stirred and thought they needed to question government action.”
Asked about people who might not trust his assurances about tweaking the system, Obama insisted, “Well, the fact that I said that the programs are operating in a way that prevents abuse, that continues to be true without the reforms … If I tell Michelle that I did the dishes — now, granted, in the White House, I don’t do the dishes that much, but back in the day — and she’s a little skeptical, well, I’d like her to trust me, but maybe I need to bring her back and show her the dishes and not just have her take my word for it.” It just might be a while before we get to see all those sparkling plates.